- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her supporters are talking as if the Democratic nomination is within reach, claiming a popular vote victory with the last metric that possibly favors her.

The senator from New York is pushing the vote totals as her final message, as the presidential nod is nearly in the hands of her rival Sen. Barack Obama.

“Seventeen million Americans have voted for Hillary Clinton - more than for any primary candidate in history,” her campaign proclaims in an upbeat, last-minute television ad running in Montana and South Dakota, which end the long nominating season with primaries Tuesday.

“Some say there isn’t a single reason for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. They’re right - there are over 17 million of them.”

It’s a message that the candidate hammered over and over again Sunday, causing some to praise her for determination but others to say it isn’t enough, because in reality the nomination is secured when a candidate reaches the needed number of delegates.

“The majority of voters know who is ready on Day One to serve as president,” Mrs. Clinton said last night.

She can claim the popular vote lead by taking her wins in Florida and Michigan and discounting Mr. Obama’s caucus victories, contests where participation is difficult to estimate. In all other counts, he narrowly leads the popular vote.

Her Puerto Rico win gives her a 100,000-person edge more in the popular vote, but the territory cannot vote in November and Mr. Obama has won more states.

The senator from Illinois leads in the overall delegate count and in delegates earned through contests or from pledges from the elected officials and party activists known as superdelegates.

His aides say he should be able to achieve the victory number of 2,118 after tomorrow’s primaries end, with the help of about 30 superdelegate endorsements.

About 145 superdelegates are left who have not backed a candidate, so the Obama team says the remaining 30 should come easy once voting is over.

Sunday night, Mrs. Clinton asked the superdelegates to consider, “Which candidate best represents the will of the people who voted in this historic primary?”

Mr. Obama is careful to say that Mrs. Clinton can stay in the race as long as possible but notes that he is ready to “pivot” toward a general election against presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Sunday, Mr. Obama heaped praise on Mrs. Clinton but spoke of her as a partner instead of a rival.

“She is going to be a great asset when we go into November to make sure that we can beat the Republicans, that I will promise you,” Mr. Obama said yesterday from Mitchell, S.D., after congratulating her dominant Puerto Rico victory.

Despite her attempts to refocus on popular vote, most framed her win as the last celebration for the campaign and instead wondered aloud when she would end her bid.

“Once 2,118 is claimed … it is over, it is so over,” NBC’s Tim Russert said Sunday. “It’s not going to happen.”

The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee dealt Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy a blow Saturday when it decided to restore the delegates initially stripped from Florida and Michigan because they held January primaries earlier than party rules allow.

The panel also awarded Mr. Obama 59 delegates with a half-vote each from Michigan, even though he actually received no votes because he removed his name from the ballot, a ruling that Clinton aides said was effectively stealing delegates away from their candidate.

Many say it is up to Mrs. Clinton to prove that she means it when she promises she would campaign her hardest for her former rival in a general election, but it also falls to Mr. Obama to assure her most faithful supporters - mostly women - that she was treated fairly.

Some Democrats do not take lightly the anguished scene that played out at the rules hearing.

Clinton-supporting women shouted that they will not support Mr. Obama and others left in tears or shaking from anger because they felt their candidate was treated unfairly.

“The Democrats are throwing the election away,” Harriet Christian of New York City shouted after the hearing in video captured by a liberal blogger on YouTube.

Ms. Christian said she viewed Mrs. Clinton as “the best nominee that’s possible.”

“They think we won’t turn and vote for McCain. Well I’ve got news for all of you, McCain will be the next president of the United States,” she said.

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